Quite honestly, we are all going to stumble through these conversations we are having about race. And, that’s okay! The key — the most important thing — is that we are HAVING these conversations. If you are struggling with how to approach a conversation about race with your black or brown industry colleagues, check out my tips below. I don’t specialize in race relations, so take my advice as one colleague sharing some tips with another.

1.The phrase, “I Don’t See Color” is Offensive. To a black or brown person, this phrase typically translates as “You don’t see me.” It also sounds like you are choosing to be blind to the effects of the systematic racism that people of color experience. Instead, try saying something like “ I see you.” “I hear you.” “And, I want to know more about you and what you are going through.”

2. Being Informed Goes a Long Way. As a wedding pro, I make it a point to research the religious and cultural traditions of every wedding I take care of before each consultation. If you truly want to be an ally to a colleague, don’t force them to be your cultural encyclopedia. Educate yourself about the experiences of others BEFORE you start asking questions about something you don’t understand.

3. Leave the Eggshells in the Kitchen. Your black and brown colleagues can tell when you are constantly “tip toeing” around the subject of race, and it makes them equally uncomfortable. If you have a question, ask. Try to avoid a long string of questions. (see point #2). Please try to avoid starting your question with, “ I don’t mean to sound like a racist, but…”

4. Avoid Burdening Us With Your Guilt. Within the last 48 hours, I have received almost 70 messages (e-mails, texts and DMs) from well-meaning white colleagues. They want to know how I’m doing and I receive that. However, some of the messages miss “ how are you doing?” and go straight to the “ I feel soooooo bad (or guilty). I am soooooo sad” I’ve even experienced tears on phone calls. Please avoid this action. It comes across as narcissistic and insensitive.

Kawania Wooten is the principal consultant at Howerton+Wooten Events, LLC.  Known to her friends and family as Kay, she uses artistic skills, her keen attention to the smallest details and her strong commitment to customer service as the hallmark of her business.  As the founder of the company, Kawania strives for professionalism, creativity and impeccable organization within every function planned by Howerton+Wooten Events.